The Kansas City Royals made it Scott Pinoni’s choice: stay in Visalia of the California League or return to the Northwest League.
Pinoni said no to Spokane of the NWL and hung up the phone. Later, however, he remembered what Visalia teammate Antonio Fernandez said.
“He told me they treated him great in Spokane (in 1994),” said Pinoni, who called back K.C. minor league director Bob Hegman and said he’d go to Spokane.
The decision has paid early dividends for the Indians, who completed a three- game sweep of Bellingham on Saturday when Pinoni’s run-scoring double in the 12th inning gave Spokane a 4-3 decision.
Pinoni drilled a 1-0 fastball from Bessam Ali (0-2), the sixth Giants pitcher, into left-center. James Vida, who walked to open the inning, scored easily.
Because Yakima (12-11) defeated Everett on Saturday, Bellingham (11-12) dropped out of a first-place tie in the Northern Division. Spokane (9-14), with its second three-game winning streak of the year, remained three games behind.
Bellingham blew a 3-0 eighth-inning lead when Leon Weathersby tripled home Patrick Hallmark and Vida with two out. Shortstop Terry Weaver’s relay throw to third scooted away, allowing Weathersby to try for home. Third baseman Pedro Felix’s throw to the plate appeared to beat Weathersby, but the right fielder was ruled safe.
Giants manager Glenn Tufts argued the play and was ejected. Bellingham had just one hit the rest of the way.
The Indians’ comeback ruined the sharp fourth start of Bellingham’s Darin Blood, the Post Falls product who played at Gonzaga University. Blood baffled Spokane for six innings, giving up four hits and no earned runs. He struck out five.
“We had them right there and some crazy stuff happened,” said Blood, who had a large fan club among the 5,088 present at Seafirst Stadium.
There was nothing wild about Spo kane’s first eight innings, but the Giants were also quiet against Mike Robbins, the first Spokane starter to last seven innings this year. Robbins scattered seven hits.
Ricardo Calderon’s two-run double in the eighth off Jose Santiago gave the Giants a good bulge, but the Indians fought back. Hallmark, 3 for 4 for the night, started the rally with an infield single. Vida had a single and Pinoni flew out before Weathersby’s big hit.
Pinoni had a chance to win it in the 10th after William Roland’s leadoff single and Vida’s subsequent single that sent Roland to third. Pinoni, however, grounded out and the Spokane inning wilted.
“That’s the one time I’ve hit a grounder here, and it came when I needed one in the air,” said Pinoni, who arrived and played Friday.
Spokane begins a five-game series today against Southern Division-leading Portland. Justin Adam (1-2) is Spokane’s scheduled starter. The Indians return home Friday against Boise.
Portland’s tentative starter for Tuesday’s game with Spokane is David Nied, one of the Colorado Rockies’ top pitchers. Nied is on a rehabilitation assignment… . Everett’s Matt Sachse, a Ferris High grad, is 10 of 49 (.204), with five runs scored, one double, five RBIs and two stolen bases.
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